Biographers International Organization
Biographers International Organization (BIO) is a non-profit organization founded to promote the art and craft of biography, and to further the professional interests of its practitioners.
BIO was granted its corporate charter on May 26, 2010. It is designated as a 501 (c) 6.
BIO grew from the vision of James McGrath Morris, creator and editor of The Biographer’s Craft newsletter. In July 2008, Morris wrote an open letter to biographers, and from that a grass-roots organization of practicing and apprentice biographers began to emerge. Eight months later, on March 26, 2009, the first formal organizing meeting took place in a classroom at the Leon Levy Center for Biography at CUNY, and a temporary 15-member founding committee was formed to function as an Interim Board of Directors.
In February 2010, the Interim Board announced the formation of an Advisory Council composed of leading and noted biographers and agents including Deirdre Bair, Douglas Brinkley, Robert Caro, Joan Hedrick, Justin Kaplan, Eric Lax, David Levering Lewis, Andrew Lownie, John Matteson, William S. McFeely, Jon Meacham, Marion Meade, Nancy Milford, Susan Ronald, Stacy Schiff, Martin J. Sherwin, Kenneth Silverman, William Taubman, and Terry Teachout.
At the first Compleat Biographer Conference in Boston on May 15, 2010, Nigel Hamilton was chosen to assume the presidency, succeeding Debby Applegate, who had served as interim president. Charles J. Shields was elected vice president, and eleven others were selected to serve one- to two-year terms on the board: Carol DeBoer-Langworthy, Gayle Feldman, Anne Heller, Kitty Kelley, Andrew Lownie, Paul Maher Jr., Hans Renders, Carl Rollyson, Stacy Schiff, Will Swift, and Steve Weinberg. In its first actions, the board selected James McGrath Morris to serve as executive director.
Since 2010, BIO's president and vice president have been elected biennially by BIO members.
|2010-2012||Nigel Hamilton||Charles J. Shields|
|2012-2014||James McGrath Morris||Brian Jay Jones|
|2014-2016||Brian Jay Jones||Cathy Curtis|
In 2011, addressing the second annual Complete Biographer Conference in Washington, DC, BIO President Nigel Hamilton wrote: "Biography faces many challenges today, from a reduced attention span and ever-growing celebrity worship among readers to an obsession with self rather than others…. By confronting these challenges together, rather than singly, we can ensure the survival of biography as seriously researched, articulately composed, and well-produced work chronicling the lives of real individuals: a craft that has been in existence since Greek and Roman times. This is our commitment, then, each and every one of us: to make a unique contribution to human knowledge and understanding through our work."
Each year at its annual conference, BIO presents several awards to honor biographers, librarians, and their work.
The BIO Award, initiated in 2010, is presented to an individual who has "made a significant contribution to the art and craft of biography," while the Biblio Award, created in 2012, is presented to an outstanding librarian or archivist. Awardees are selected by the BIO Board of Directors, from nominations submitted by BIO members.
Starting in 2013, BIO members select by vote the Plutarch Award for best biography of the year. The first Plutarch Award was presented to The Passage of Power, the fourth volume in Robert Caro's The Years of Lyndon Johnson, his ongoing biography of President Lyndon Johnson.
|2012||Arnold Rampersad||Edward Comstock, University of Southern California|
|2013||Ron Chernow||David Smith, New York Public Library||Robert Caro, The Passage of Power|
|2014||Stacy Schiff||Wallace Dailey and Heather Cole, Curators, Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Harvard University||Linda Leavell, Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore|
- Debby Applegate (2007 Pulitzer Prize for Biography for The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher)
- Robert Caro (2002 National Book Award, 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Biography for Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson)
- Doris Kearns Goodwin (1995 Pulitzer Prize for History for No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II)
- Nigel Hamilton (Whitbread Award for Biography, Templar Medal for Military History for Monty, official three-volume biography of Field Marshal Montgomery)
- Justin Kaplan (1967 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, National Book Award for Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain; 1981 National Book Award for Walt Whitman)
- Stacy Schiff (2000 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, for Vera: Mrs. Vladimer Nabakov)
- T. J. Stiles (2009 National Book Award and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt)
- Jean Strouse (Bancroft Prize for Alice James: A Biography)